Maybe Adidas meant no harm with the impending release of their “shackles sneaker.”
Maybe Adidas was attempting to crack jokes at those who were labeling their shoes ineffective following the injuries to several of their high profile endorsers during this year’s NBA playoffs (Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard and Iman Shumpert).
Maybe, just maybe, everyone’s overreacting and that’s exactly what the company wanted in the first place (create a buzz).
Regardless of their motivation or incentive, Adidas went about the entire plan all wrong. For those not in the know, the legendary shoe company was scheduled to release the JS Roundhouse Mids in August. The pics first made headlines following the company’s pictures on their Facebook page last week. From there, the entire country has picked up on the story and, of course, racial and cultural backlash has been the main response. Anything involving chains, especially around the ankles, will invoke obvious memories of slavery and those being led off slave ships to auction blocks. They also draw images of inmates in prison; both of which are largely and negatively associated with African American culture.
To combat the claims, Adidas defended designer Jeremy Scott.
“Jeremy Scott is renowned as a designer whose style is quirky and lighthearted and his previous shoe designs for adidas Originals have, for example, included panda heads and Mickey Mouse. Any suggestion that this is linked to slavery is untruthful.”
Scott has made a name for himself in the shoe industry for a style unique to his own. And, unfortunately, this will be attached to his name because of the bad taste left in many a mouth across the country for what’ll, in the grand scheme of things, result as a bad marketing decision. Unfortunately, this instance probably won’t do much to deter sneaker enthusiasts nationwide; many of whom have fought, killed and stood in line for days for limited edition shoes. The production to make the shoe is cheaper than most would imagine, while the consumption by those hungry enough to fork over hundreds of dollars. It’s a game shoe producers have been winning for nearly 30 years now with no real answer in sight.
Hopefully this specific serves as a teachable moment and one that will have an impact in the sales category. There must be some sort of balance between fashion creativity and societal insensitivity. Adidas is a name long associated with American apparel and will continue to be so moving forward. This one decision won’t bankrupt their company, regardless how some may paint it. Like was said earlier, however, even if underlying racial tones was not their intent, they have to be smarter as a company in knowing choosing to place shackles around ankles will incite rage in a country which will never truly come to a utopia on race relations.
From a public relations standpoint, it’s easy not to envy those in a position of power and influence with the company. The only thing worse for Adidas is if they uploaded the picture to their Facebook page with the Ginuwine lyric from Nas’ “You Owe Me,” “I got them shackles on my feet. You owe me.” Just imagination the reaction that would have received.